Pubdate: Fri, 02 Sep 2016
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Copyright: 2016 The Sydney Morning Herald
Author: Lindsay Murdoch, South-east Asia correspondent Bangkok


Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte could face international 
criminal charges as the death count in his relentless war on drugs 
tops almost 2000, human rights advocates say.

Comments by the tough-talking former provincial mayor such as "all of 
you are into drugs, you sons of bitches ... I will kill you" could be 
used as evidence to prosecute him, they say.

Sam Zarifi, from the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), says 
it is likely that as the killings continue lawyers will gather 
evidence to initiate legal proceedings against Mr Duterte, as 9541 
victims of the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos did in the 
United States in the 1990s.

In 1995 a US court awarded the victims $US1.9 billion after finding 
that Marcos, who died in exile in 1989, was responsible for massive 
human rights abuses, including torture, murder and "disappearances of 
fellow Filipinos".

At the time lawyers said the verdict set a ground-breaking precedent 
upholding the principle that military "command responsibility" for 
wartime misconduct is applicable in a class-action suit alleging 
peacetime human rights abuses by the agents of a political leader.

Mr Zarifi, the ICJ's regional director for Asia and Pacific, told the 
Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand that the killings in the 
Philippines since 71-year-old Mr Duterte was swept into office at May 
elections are widespread and systematic, meeting the criteria under 
international law of crimes against humanity that could be prosecuted 
by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

"I am not holding my breath for international action but if these 
(killings) continue at the same velocity I would expect cases to 
start popping up," he said.

Mr Zarifi said Mr Duterte has made many comments that could be used 
against him in foreign courts, including several weeks ago declaring: 
"My order is to shoot to kill. I don't care about human rights ... 
this is a war against drugs and we have to fight it."

Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch's Asia director, described the first 
weeks of Mr Duterte's rule as "nothing less than [an] absolute human 
rights disaster. We have the highest elected official of the land 
openly, actively, aggressively calling for the extra-judicial killing 
of criminal suspects," he said.

Mr Duterte promised during the election campaign that 100,000 people 
would die in his crackdown and that fish in Manila Bay would grow fat 
from eating bodies.
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